[Humanist] 24.630 on digital reading
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Jan 4 06:54:42 CET 2011
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 630.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
Date: Mon, 3 Jan 2011 17:55:29 -0500
From: Francois Lachance <lachance at chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Meditations on the Book
In-Reply-To: <20110103073604.C57D6C9B09 at woodward.joyent.us>
I know you have been suggesting that a way forward for humanists is to
entertain a research program, to find an appropriate set of questions.
Might I suggest that the way forward might be through a focus on an
object: the book.
I offer some meditations:
The poet Robin Blaser concludes a poem collected in _Pell Mell_ with the
following line: our battle with the book is our Buddhist battle.
Gregory Ulmer in _Applied Grammatology_ offers a view of a struggle with
the book as a process of mourning:
The book is perhaps the most charged cathected object in Western
civilization, representing, according to Freud's analysis of his own dream
of the botanical monograph, the Mother. Derrida's frequent allusions to
the need for mourning (a process associated with the child's defenses for
dealing with the loss of or separation from the mother, an essential
element of the entry into language), signaled by funeral knell in
_Glas_, suggests that gramatological writing exemplifies the struggle
to break the investiture of the book.
>From this century:
Margaret Wente in _The Globe and Mail_ concludes a piece about the rise of
e-books with a litany of facts:
As George Will points out in Newsweek, three years ago, Facebook had 50
million users, mostly under 24. Today, it has half a billion users, almost
half of whom are over 35. It took 2 1/2 years to sell three million iPods,
two years to sell three million Kindles, and 80 days to sell three million
iPads. It takes 30 seconds to downlodad _Moby Dick_, and it costs $2.49.
And from the New York Times, the words of a poet and musician, Patti
Smith, upon receiving a National Book Award for nonfiction:
Ms. Smith, who worked as a clerk in Scribner's bookstore in Manhattan
before finding success as a singer and songwriter of jagged,
beat-influenced punk rock music, told the audience at the awards ceremony,
"Please, no matter how we adavance technologically, please don't abandon
the book -- there is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the
I find it easy to love "a" book just as I find it difficult to imagine
"the" book. Could it be that the humanities computing project that will
animate the future is to spring from an intimate encouter with the
particular materialities of the artefacts we have chosen to cherish?
Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
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